Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Clarity of Purpose

Anna Wintour: “People respond well to people who are sure of what they want.”

We somehow think that a clear purpose will come to us from above, as the Ten Commandments were given to Moses, or as Buddha achieved enlightenment sitting under the Bodhi  tree.  Some people are lucky enough to know early on their where their talents and interests lie.  Anna Wintour reckoned she was just 15 when her career in fashion was fixed[1].    For the rest of us, being clear about our purpose is hard work. 

There is no escaping the fact that a clear vision is essential to the success of any organisation, and essential to the success of those within the organisation.  

If being clear about your purpose was easy, though, everyone would be highly focused on their specific goals.  Sadly, that’s not the case for one very simple reason: being clear about your purpose means making a choice.  By choosing one path you close off others.  For many people that is very difficult; the grass always looks greener someplace else, particularly when things don’t turn out as you planned.  So our attention wanders to something we think might be more profitable, more interesting, or just plain different from the problems we are facing.  However, that is exactly why clarity of purpose is so powerful; choosing forces you to focus your time, resources, and energy on one thing.  And doing one thing vastly improve your chances of success.  The old saying that the hunter who cases two rabbits catches neither one is as true in business as it is in the woods.  

When we are sure we are doing the right thing, we can sink ourselves fully into the activity.  Free from distractions, we become absorbed in our work.  Disturbances that would normally cause annoyance are ignored as we focus on the job.   Concentration and effectiveness are at their highest when we have absolute clarity about what we are doing and why we are doing it.

[1] When Anna Wintour was just 21 years old she told her co-workers that she wanted to be Editor of Vogue.  She achieved her ambition in 1988 and 24 years later she is still Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Wintour.

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